Kenilworth residents call on council to delay outdoor pool closure vote at meeting

Kenilworth residents who attended a public meeting about the town's threatened outdoor pool called on Warwick District Council to delay a crunch vote on its future.

Monday, 14th January 2019, 9:48 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 7:34 pm
Clive Peacock of Restore Kenilworth Lido speaks at the meeting

The council is proposing to replace Abbey Fields' outdoor pool with an indoor training pool as part of planned leisure centre improvements, which has been criticised by campaign group 'Restore Kenilworth Lido'.

It had hoped to persuade the council to instead replace the pool with a 25m outdoor lido, which it claimed would attract more tourists into Kenilworth.

Despite a public consultation showing 41 per cent of respondents supported the current outdoor pool as opposed to 32 per cent in favour of the indoor pool, with further support of the plan to restore the lido, the council felt the new indoor pool was the more economically viable option.

The room at the Kenilworth Centre was very busy

The council's executive is set to make a final decision on the plans at a meeting on Wednesday January 9.

But residents who attended a public meeting organised by Restore Kenilworth Lido at the Kenilworth Centre on Saturday January 5 called on the council to delay this decision.

The meeting, chaired by Fraser Pithie, began with invited speakers talking about the benefits of outdoor pools.

Gill Wright, of Historic Pools of Britain, said the historic aspect of the pool, which has existed in some form since 1896, should be respected.

She said: "These pools have got something different to offer to a leisure centre. They've got a much bigger attraction to local people, and they're of interest to the wider public as well.

"My hope is [the council] will look again at the proposals for the pool, and Kenilworth can have a facility that is attractive to all members of the community."

And Emma Pusell, co-author of the forthcoming 'The Lido Guide' said it was 'a myth' that lidos were more expensive and could not generate a profit.

She added: "With a bit of imagination and a proper management programme, you can keep an outdoor pool open all year."

The public then had a chance to contribute.

One speaker voiced his concern that Abbey Fields was a sensitive area, and thought the car park may have to be expanded to cope with demand if a new outdoor pool was built.

Ruth Colgan of Restore Kenilworth Lido claimed the group had looked at this and concluded no changes to Abbey Fields would need to be made.

And another speaker, John Watson, said: "Culturally and historically, Kenilworth is of national importance for this. The rise in the popularity of wild and outdoor swimming started in Kenilworth in the Roger Deakin book 'Waterlog'. It started in this little town."

Criticism also came in for portfolio holder for leisure, Cllr Michael Coker, who did not attend the meeting.

His statement, read out at the meeting by chair Fraser Pithie, was: "There has been a very full consultation on the two options put forward by the district, and also, every opportunity has been given to your group [Restore Kenilworth Lido] to put forward your proposal in respect of the reintroduction of a full outdoor pool, even though it was not a council option.

"That consultation is complete, and very full consideration has been given in the report prepared by officers to your proposals, with the assistance of independent expert consultants.

"In these circumstances I do not feel it's appropriate to appear to reopen the consultation in respect of one of the issues. I will not be participating in the meeting."

Mutters of 'shameful' could then be heard among the audience.

Cllr Sue Gallagher called on as many people to attend the executive meeting as possible, and claimed the council had wanted to close the outdoor pool for a long time.

After the discussion, the attendees voted to call on the council to defer its decision and have a thorough look at whether a lido can be supported in respect of the new houses being built around Kenilworth.

The executive meeting, which is open to the public, will start at 6pm in Leamington Town Hall.